Public Service Campaign

Death to Violence

Chicago-based commercial photographer Francois Robert has a unique way of seeing things that most of us don’t see. About 20 years ago, Francois and his Swiss designer brother, Jean, made us aware of anthropomorphic features in inanimate objects such as padlocks, mops, door knockers and light switches, and photographed these expressive faces and presented them in the book, “Face to Face.”

More recently, Francois has been captivated by another unusual subject — the human skeleton. Francois’s portfolio has long included photographs of animal skulls and he once spent weeks photographing skulls in the collection of the Field Museum of Natural History. But it wasn’t until he accidentally found a skeleton in a science-class locker that he bought at a sale of used school supplies that he began to contemplate the austere beauty of human bones. Arranging them into shapes five or six feet wide, he photographed them with a 4×5 Hasselblad hoisted on a boom.

From these photographs came the limited edition book “Stop the Violence,” crafted by designer Rick Valicenti. Bones arranged in the shapes of hand grenades, military tanks, bombs and fighter jets are presented with a transcript of the remarks of President Obama at the acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize. Along with these symbols of war, Francois arranged the full alphabet out of human bones. The effect is austere, macabre, and unsettlingly beautiful.